Santa Clara eight graders Nathaly Aguiar Bello, at Peterson Middle School, and Jada Roper, at Buchser Middle School, were inspired to set their career sights high and reach for the stars over the summer. They were among eight local girls, sponsored by the Sunnyvale-Cupertino American Association of University Women (AAUW), to attend Tech Trek from July 15 -21.
The summer residential STEM camp for girls is held annually on the Stanford University campus, where Tech Trek began in 1998. It has since expanded to 10 camps on eight college campuses across California and went national in 2013.
“AAUW Tech Trek helps girls see their futures while having nonstop fun through hands-on problem solving and encounters with women role models in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Kathy Reda, AAUW Educational Equity Co-Chair.
“This one-week summer camp is backed by AAUW’s research and designed to make STEM fields exciting and accessible to girls in middle school — the age when girls’ participation in these fields statistically drops,” said Reda. “For many girls, Tech Trek sparks their curiosity and places them on a path toward success.”
The Sunnyvale-Cupertino branch of AAUW, which includes members from Santa Clara, invited all eight girls and their families to a picnic on Sept. 15 at Raynor Park, Sunnyvale. They shared their camp experiences, from making new friends to meeting inspiring professional women.
For Bello, whose seventh grade science teacher, Gregory Namba, recommended that she apply for Tech Trek, a night hike and searching the sky for stars and planets through telescopes was one camp highlight of many.
“I found out about more opportunities after all the women spoke to us about their careers,” said Bello, now considering becoming a forensic scientist or anesthesiologist. “Camp showed what we can do to succeed and that we don’t have to do what women were traditionally supposed to do.”
Roper had thought about becoming a lawyer before she went to Tech Trek and was all the more encouraged to do so after camp.
“I met many empowering women who told us about their jobs,” said Roper. “For instance one woman worked for Pixar and another for Lockheed Martin. One was a judge, who spoke to us about her life dealing justice.
“The judge was extremely inspiring in how she told us that people would try to stop us, but we’re independent women and we must rise above the trials in life,” continued Roper. “She was really what encouraged me to become a lawyer.”
“I could see my future being brighter based on what this camp does. I appreciate the opportunity I was given and would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Roper’s mother, Amanda Gomes, was appreciative of the opportunity for her daughter.
“The fact that this was all set in to motion by Jada’s teacher, Mrs. Amina, made it that much more special.” said Gomes.